bless your heart: 7 ways to keep your ticker in tip-top shape

 

february is heart health month

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The heart is a complex, intricate part of who we are, but there are seven simple, straightforward ways you can keep your ticker tip-top shape. These may seem like no-brainers, but we could all use refreshers when it comes to something so important.

1. Stay Active

As Olivia Newton-John once said, "Let's Get Physical." There's no better way to keep your heart healthy than regular physical activity. We're all busy and yes, life is crazy, but the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times week. Getting active for just a short amount of time ensures a more satisfying life and reduces risk for heart disease. 

Need inspiration? Check out the American Heart Association's Fitness Basics to get you started.

2. all in all, watch your cholesterol

This is a big one: your body needs blood (duh), and that blood needs to flow easily through your veins (double duh). Too much "bad" cholesterol (LDL), which is the plaque that builds up in your veins and arteries, can lead to heart disease and stroke.  The best way to keep your bad cholesterol in check is with a healthy diet of whole- and multi-grain products, fatty fishes, fresh fruits and vegetables (hey, we might be able to help you there!), avocados, flax seeds, walnuts, and almonds.

3. monitor, monitor, monitor your diet

We all indulge every once in a while, but keeping track of what you eat very important when it comes to keeping your heart in check. Our bodies constantly need fuel and they tend to work better when that fuel is of a higher quality. That means veggies, fruit, low-fat dairy, fiber-rich whole grains, and lean meats like fish are the best stuff to keep the blood pumpin'. Keeping a food diary is great way to track what you eat to make sure you're staying the course.

4. manage blood pressure

Maintaining healthy blood pressure is a sure-fire way to fend off risks such as heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can strain your heart, arteries, and even kidneys, due to too much force applied to your arteries, causing them to stretch and incur microscopic tears. Although our body heals these tears, the microscopic scar tissue can build up and trap plaque, causing blockages. Yikes! Good amounts of physical activity, and of course a healthy diet can help keep blood pressure in check. And hey, kicking those less-than-great habits like smoking and drinking can, too.

5. weight loss

Now, we don't want to sound like your mother or that friend that's always on your case, but having significant amounts of fat around your waist can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Losing weight and keeping it off often requires a lifestyle change that comes with many, many other health benefits. Every little bit helps, even 5 to 10 pounds here and there. 

6. reduce blood sugar

Pretty much everything we eat gets turned into glucose, aka blood sugar, that our body then uses for energy. Keeping your blood sugar under 100 is best, otherwise, you may be at risk for diabetes. The best way to keep your blood sugar in check is to watch consumption of sodas, candies, and sugary desserts. Also, regular physical activity (noticing a theme here?) can dramatically help with blood sugar levels. 

7. kick butt

No no no, we're not advocating violence. Rather, kicking the habit, specifically smoking. For smokers, this is a tough one, but due to smoking they carry a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Quitting smoking is, hands down, the best thing a smoker can do for their health. The list of damaging effects is fairly long, but smoking damages your entire circulatory system, and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots.  Smoking can also reduce your good cholesterol (HDL) and your lung capacity, making it harder to get the physical activity you need for better health.

It's no easy task to quit smoking and there are plenty of resources available for those ready to make the change. The American Heart Association is a great resource to get you started. 

 

For more heart-to-heart discussion, visit the American Heart Association's website and if their cause is near-and-dear to your heart, consider getting involved with their organization!

Have Fun, Be Amazing.